Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 14 years, 10 months, 27 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 2nd Precinct - Deering Street Station
District of Incident (Present Day): 009 - Deering
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 49
Date of Birth: 1838
Date of Appointment: 07 May 1872
Date of Incident: 009 - Deering
End of Watch: 03 Apr 1887
Date of Interment: 07 Apr 1887
Cemetery: Calvary Cemetery - Evanston, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # A-2
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 10
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1, Line 20
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 35-E: 11
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman Michael O’Brien, Star #216, aged 49 years, was a 14 year, 10 month, 27 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 2nd Precinct – Deering Street Station.
On April 2, 1887, at approximately 11:15 p.m., Officer O’Brien was working with his partner, Patrolman William Dillon. The two officers responded to a disturbance behind Burke’s Saloon located at No. 2741 South Archer Avenue near Quinn Street. The saloon was a well-known Irish drinking establishment. The drunks and disorderly roughnecks whose noisy carrying on had been creating unusual havoc for the beat cops. Once the officers arrived the observed Timothy O’Grady through the crowd as he stuck out from being well known to the officers as a troublemaker.
As the officers moved in, mayhem ensued and the crowd began to run in every direction. Some ran around the corner into the alley, others ran into and through the saloon exiting out the front. Officer O’Brien took off in pursuit of the patrons through the saloon. He caught up to O’Grady on the sidewalk and immediately recognized him. Knowing him to have concealed weapons on his person, a scuffle ensued as he attempted to arrest O’Grady. O’Grady managed to break free and run around the corner onto Quinn Street, making his way down a flight of stairs that led to a side street. O’Grady soon found himself trapped between Officer O’Grady who had pursued and Officer Dillon who had stationed himself in the rear of the saloon. O’Grady produced a revolver and quickly fired four to five shots at Officer O’Brien, all of which missed. With the officers caught in crossfire, neither was able to return fire for fear of hitting the other. O’Grady took advantage of the situation and fled down the main sidewalk and headed over to O’Malley’s Packing House located one half block away on Quinn Street. With both officers in pursuit, each was able to get one shot off each at the fleeing O’Grady.
The officers then lost sight of O’Grady and he appeared to have vanished. The officers stood on the corner of Quinn Street for approximately ten minutes and at 11:30 p.m. O’Grady was spotted attempting to sneak through the alley. Officer O’Brien shouted, “Hold on there!” O’Grady responded by firing one shot from his revolver. Both officers returned fire as they gave chase. O’Grady turned one more time and fired another shot. Officer O’Brien was hit in the chest, the bullet penetrating his right lung and exited his back. He shouted to his partner saying, “Bill, I am gone! Send for the priest.” Officer Dillon then fired all his remaining rounds at O’Grady and then returned to his partner, who was now choking on his own blood. Officer Dillon Carried O’Brien back to the front of Burke’s Saloon and headed to the nearest patrol box and summoned the patrol wagon.
The patrol wagon responded and they loaded Officer O’Brien and transported him to his residence located at No. 2726 South Hickory Street (present day 2726 South Hillock Avenue). Upon arrival he was unconscious and by the time Doctors Egan and Kennedy arrived he had lost a great deal of blood. After examining his wound the doctors concluded it to be fatal. Officer O’Brien lingered there through the night before succumbing to his wounds the next day on April 3, 1887.
Following the incident Detective Headquarters was notified and two of the city’s most well regarded detectives, Bonfield and Treharn, were awakened to pursue O’Grady. It was well known that O’Grady lived with his father who was known as a respectable man who ran a blacksmith shop. The detectives went to their residence located at No. 2723 South Archer Avenue. O’Grady was found inside and arrested. A .32 caliber pistol was found on him but it was determined that Officer O’Brien was shot with a .44 caliber pistol. O’Grady insisted that he was innocent and claimed it was another man who shot Officer O’Brien. He stood trial and was convicted despite several other points being in his favor. O’Grady was sentenced to 17 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet.
After O’Grady was convicted the case took a strange turn. A man named Dyer Scanlan was arrested and convicted of the May 12, 1888 shooting of Patrolman Martin Nolan who was shot six times. Scanlan was sentenced to 10 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet. While in prison he believed that he contracted tuberculosis and was dying. On August 9, 1890, faced with his own mortality, Scanlan confessed to the murder of Officer O’Brien. Six days later when all the facts came out O’Grady received a full pardon by Governor John Peter Altgeld. Scanlan never died from tuberculosis and was released from prison on March 20, 1895.
As Scanlan was released from the penitentiary, detectives from the Chicago Police Department were waiting to take him into custody for the murder of Officer O’Brien. He was charged with murder in addition to four other murders, numerous assaults, burglaries, and robberies that he admitted to while in prison.
Officer O’Brien’s funeral mass was held at St. Bridget Catholic Church located at 2928 South Archer Avenue. He was laid to rest on April 7, 1887 in Calvary Cemetery, 301 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois.
Patrolman Michael O’Brien, born in 1838, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on May 7, 1872.
Officer O’Brien was survived by his wife.
Incident recorded under Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database, Case #2804.